U.S Department of Education Betsy DeVos announced recently that $180 million in grant funds would soon be released to assist with virtual learning and course access programs that have become necessary due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). These funds will also go towards microgrants to help families access the necessary technology that their children learn during the pandemic forced shutdown.
This microgrant program could be incredibly helpful to parents and families who may not have access to the necessary technology in their home for their kids to access classes online.
These funds have been authorized as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The bill, meant to provide aid to small business and individuals, and stimulate the economy during a pandemic that has led to a significant economic shutdown. The terms of the CARES act allow DeVos to set aside 1% of 81 billion allocated for education aid and offer grants that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. This new competition to apply for these “Rethink Education” grants is open explicitly to state education programs.
DeVos spoke on this new grants program, saying:
“The current disruption to the normal model is reaffirming something I have said for years: We must rethink education to better match the realities of the 21st century,”
This is the time for local education leaders to unleash their creativity and ingenuity.
Secretary DeVoss presented the microgrants program itself at a White House Press Conference that took place last month, where the secretary proposed the idea of offering “microgrants” to students who were stranded without access to technology because their schools had shut down.
According to the Department of Education, The students who will be eligible for these grants will have to have attended a school that has shut down for the last 30 days and must either have an individualized education program or be receiving SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) benefits.
The exact details of parameters for the K-12 Rethink Education grants are not yet known, and applications don’t open for two weeks. Still, more than 80% (maybe even higher) students will not return to in-person classes at their school due to the pandemic shutdowns.
It will be quite interesting to see which states apply for this program, and what the results will be in setting up proper virtual learning infrastructure. Some of the states that have been the hardest hit include New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Michigan. The process for applying for this grant will consist of peer reviewers who will review applications, with the highest scoring applications, will receive the grant funding.
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